Stolen Honor in Georgia

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Gabriel Neville.

Thirty years ago, Dutch Henderson was “stomping through the woods” near Lake Sinclair in central Georgia when he stumbled upon an old gravestone. Some might have thought it an odd spot for a grave, but Dutch knew the history of the area and it made sense. In fact, the setting told him the man six feet under had played an important role in American history.

The inscription on the marker read: “CORP. DRURY JACKSON, SLAUGHTER’S CO. 8 VA. REGT. REV. WAR.” Why was this headstone for a Revolutionary War soldier all alone in the woods near a lake? Time changes things. Neither the lake nor the woods were there when Drury Jackson died. Back then the grave was on cleared ground overlooking the Oconee River. Depressions in the soil still reveal to the trained eye that Drury was buried in proper cemetery. The river became a lake in 1953 when it was dammed up to create a 45,000-kilowatt hydroelectric generating station. When Dutch found the grave, the cemetery had been neglected and reclaimed by nature. Today it is in a copse of trees surrounded by vacation homes.

The mysterious headstone for veteran Drury Jackson provides no dates to help us identify the man in the ground. (Dutch Henderson)

Dutch spends his free time studying local history and conducting archeology. He has made some important finds, including a string of frontier forts along what was once the “far” side of the Oconee. He’s pretty sure that Drury’s burial in that spot is an important clue to his life in the years following the Revolutionary War. From there, however, things get complicated.[1]

A genealogy site sporting a photo of the headstone tells us that Drury Jackson was born in Brunswick County, Virginia on February 2, 1745, married Lucy Dozier and then Nancy Ann Kennedy, and died in Wilkes County, Georgia before 1794. This seems possible, but Wilkes County is about seventy miles northeast of the grave. Another source tells us that Drury Jackson was born in 1767 in Franklin County, Tennessee, married Lucy B. Myrick, and died in Baldwin County, Georgia in 1823. This seems more likely, since the grave is in Baldwin County.

So, which of the two men is the right Drury Jackson? The easy assumption is that the stone properly belongs to the one who died nearby. The grave marker itself is of no help. It provides neither the date of his birth nor the date of his death. Moreover, it is the kind of marker that was issued after 1873 by the federal government for the graves of veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American wars (and the unmarked graves of veterans of earlier wars). It is clear that the marker was placed there long after the man’s death by descendants or others in the community.[2]

To resolve the mystery, we have to go back to Drury’s service in the Revolutionary War. The first thing we know for sure about the soldier who served in Captain George Slaughter’s company of the 8th Virginia is that he enlisted on February 8, 1776 in Culpeper County, Virginia. “Utey” Jackson, probably his brother, enlisted the day before. Company formation was a community affair in those days, with brothers and cousins and fathers and uncles all signing up together. Captain Slaughter, 1st Lieut. Henry Field, 2nd Lieut. James Kirtley, and Ensign John Graves each had an enlistment quota they had to meet in order to earn their commissions. It was Lieutenant Kirtley, perhaps leveraging Utey’s enlistment, who persuaded Drury to sign up that winter.[3]

Eleven days later, Culpeper’s committee of safety certified that the company was complete. Several of the men spent their last night at the home of one Augustine Rucker and then headed off to Williamsburg, where the officers received their commissions. From there, they marched to the regimental rendezvous at Suffolk, Virginia. In May, Maj. Gen. Charles Lee took the regiment—the most complete and best equipped in the Virginia line—south to counter the British attack on Charleston. Utey and Drury may or may not have been on Sullivan’s Island to counter Lord Cornwallis’ attempts to land infantry on the island’s north end while Admiral Peter Parker’s fleet pounded away with cannon at Fort Moultrie on the south end.  This engagement on June 28 was an important and unexpected victory for the Americans. A month later, they celebrated the Declaration of Independence under Charleston’s Liberty Tree.

It was clear, however, that something was wrong. More and more of the men were falling ill. Few of these men from the hills and mountains of Virginia had any previous exposure to malaria and consequently had no resistance to it. Utey and Drury both fell so ill they were left behind when General Lee took his army farther south into Georgia for a planned attack on St. Augustine, Florida. Two weeks later, on August 20, Utey died.[4]

With the arrival of cooler weather, the mosquitos stopped their biting and the malarial season ended. Drury and the other 8th Virginia men in Charleston returned to their homes on furlough. About 100 of their comrades, Utey included, were left behind in the soil of the Palmetto State. Drury arrived home with the sad news of Utey’s death and remained there on furlough until the spring when Captain Slaughter collected his men at Culpeper Courthouse for the 1777 campaign. A note on the muster rolls hints that Drury may have been detached under Gen William Maxwell at the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge in Delaware and at the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania a week later.  Either way, he was at Brandywine on September 11 and again at the Battle of Germantown on October 4. He left the Valley Forge encampment earlier than many of his comrades when his two-year enlistment expired on February 8, 1778.

Drury’s days as a Continental soldier were over. He returned home, and was still there in 1818 when he applied for a veteran’s pension. To do so, he went to the Madison County courthouse and told a judge—under oath—about his service. (Madison County had been carved out of Culpeper County in 1792.)

What, then, can we discern about the grave Dutch Henderson stumbled on in the Georgia woods three decades ago? It cannot be the grave of the Drury Jackson who was born in Brunswick County, Virginia. That man died more than two decades before our Drury’s appearance before the judge. Likewise, the Drury Jackson who was born in Franklin County, Tennessee and lived until 1823 can’t be the man memorialized on the marble slab. There is nothing to connect him to Virginia and he would have been only eight or nine years old when our Drury enlisted. So: if our veteran is not the first Drury Jackson and he’s not the second Drury Jackson, then there must be a third. Moreover, the marker is on the wrong man’s grave, namely that of the man who died in Baldwin County in 1823.

Though the place is unknown, there is virtually certain that Drury Jackson of the 8th Virginia Regiment is buried in Virginia. Land and census records show that he never strayed far from home after the war. He was probably laid to rest in Shenandoah County, where he seems to have lived his final years. He died in 1835.[5]

A plaque in Charleston, South Carolina marks the site where Utey and Drury Jackson first heard a reading of the Declaration of Independence in August, 1776 (Author)

Are we looking at a case of stolen valor? In some sense, yes. Hundreds or even thousands of people have been misled about what a certain nine year-old boy was doing in 1776. There is no reason to believe that the boy grew up and intentionally sought to steal credit for another man’s service. He certainly didn’t try to take his pension. Nevertheless, for many decades, his grave has worn, like a medal, a government-issued memorial to another man’s courage.

This has been recognized before. The website of the Friends of Baldwin County Cemeteries lists the grave with a note: “Marker is probably in error.” A linked explanation is more explicit: “There were three known Drury Jacksons living at the time of the Revolution. The pension application (Number 38075) from Drury Jackson that indicates his service in the Revolution originated from the Drury Jackson in Madison County, Virginia in 1818. …This Revolutionary War Drury Jackson is not the one buried at this gravesite.”

The organization offers a possible explanation for the misplaced headstone:

It is believed that the Daugh[t]ers of the American Revolution (DAR) marked the Baldwin County’s Drury Jackson’s grave in the 1930’s. At the time there was a massive effort to find and mark all Revolutionary War soldiers’ graves in the Baldwin County area. Many mistakes are found on these markers, since little time was afforded each potential soldier. Therefore, it is likely that, upon finding Drury Jackson in the Revolutionary War pension application files, the DAR mistakenly assumed that the Baldwin County Drury Jackson was the Revolutionary War Drury Jackson.[6]

This is plausible. The marker is a government-issued stone of a style issued for veterans’ graves from 1873 until World War I. Thereafter, gravestones were issued in the plainer style still used today and closely associated with Arlington and Normandy. The new style was specifically “to be used for all graves except those of veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American Wars.” If the DAR applied for a marker in the 1930s for a Revolutionary War soldier it would still have received one made in the older style. Other 8th Virginia veterans have Civil War-style markers, though information is not at hand to tell us when those markers were placed. The cemetery association’s theory could be tested by measuring the stone. From 1873 to 1903 the markers were ten inches wide. After 1903, they were made twelve inches wide.[7]

What about the Drury Jackson who lies under the stone in Georgia? Dutch Henderson can tell you quite a story about him. The land beyond the Oconee River was until 1804 a “no-go” zone for white Georgians as the government sought to prevent conflict with the Creek Indians. In 1794, locals egged on by revolutionary France and led by Elijah Clarke crossed the river anyway and established the “Trans-Oconee Republic.” They did this in open defiance of President Washington who was already busy putting down the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. A land lottery in 1805 finally allowed men to settle on the far side of the Oconee. It’s a good story, but it’s the story of a different Drury Jackson.


[1] Interview with Dutch Henderson.

[2] “Drury Wyche Jackson,” geni.com; “CPL Drury Wyche Jackson,” findagrave.com.

[3] National Archives and Records Administration, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers, roll 1046.

[4] Drury Jackson pension (S38075), revwarapps.com. I conclude that Drury and Utey both remained in Charleston form the date of Utey’s death and the lack of any mention of Georgia in Drury’s pension application by him or others attesting to his service.

[5] Drury Jackson Pension. “Drury Jackson (1754-1835),” findagrave.com.

[6] “Drury Jackson,” Baldwin County (Georgia) Cemeteries.

[7] “History of Government Furnished Headstones and Markers,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

This entry was posted in Common Soldier, Emerging Revolutionary War, Memory, Monuments, Personalities, Revolutionary War and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Stolen Honor in Georgia

  1. Eric Sterner says:

    Nice detective work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. BillF says:

    Nice work. The bane of every amateur genealogist: multiple people with the same name in the same area in the same time period. Who would have thought there were 3 men with the name Drury?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve Rucker says:

    Fascinating article. My ancestor Lemuel Rucker was in Captain Slaughter’s Company. I have a manning roster and sure enough Drury Jackson is on it. Thank you.

    Like

  4. Gunter Judson says:

    Thanks for a very interesting tale. It has many key points of interest for those of us who are passionate genealogist and the study of the American Revolution. I recently ordered a grave marker for my SAR patriot ancestor. Currently the form 40-1330 with supporting documents is processed in Quantico VA and then forwarded to a very nice lady in Nashville TN. She specializes in what the VA refers to as the “OGs” (Old Guys). I was able to speak with her by phone on several occasions. I have also found several of the marker requests from the DAR during the 1930s in my wife’s ancestry. These were very simple forms. Spot on Bill regarding multiple names and the false leads one encounters.

    My Jarrell ancestors were neighbors of the Ruckers. They owned adjoining property, sold land to one another, and were wittiness on many court documents for the other.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s